You probably already know how important it is to establish relationship boundaries when you start seeing someone new, but that doesn’t mean it always comes easily. That being said, it’s vital that you do so even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable as it will set the tone for your entire relationship to come. If you’re struggling with getting started on setting boundaries in your new partnership, here are some tips to get started.
Discover what you need.
When entering into a new relationship you may be hyper-focused on the chemistry, fun dates, and your hopes of living happily ever after together. But don’t forget to stop and look inward too. There are several types of boundaries, such as physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, time boundaries, and sexual boundaries. Think about how your new relationship may change different areas of your life, and reflect on what you’re okay with—and not okay with. This can help you determine where you need to set boundaries.
Be honest from the start.
Sometimes we hide our true feelings or needs in the beginning of a relationship. But this only creates more confusion later. Be honest about your boundaries from the start so your new partner can get to know what you really need, what your expectations are, and what behaviors they should avoid.
It’s important to say no when you want to say no. But in a new relationship, your partner is still learning about you. Teach them what you are comfortable with, too, not just what you aren’t comfortable with. When you say no to something, offer an alternative. For example, you can say, “I can’t spend the night, but I can hang out during the day or you can stay at my place.”
Set boundaries before they’re needed.
It can be hard to set boundaries in the moment, especially if you’re already in a stressful disagreement or tense situation with your beau. That’s why it’s a good idea to set boundaries before they’re needed. Talk about your boundaries during a calm and neutral conversation. Then, when they’re needed, they’ll already have been set.
It’s okay if setting boundaries feels awkward.
Not everyone has a lot of practice setting boundaries. And especially in a new relationship, it can feel awkward saying no. You may worry that your boundaries will scare your partner away, or that you’ll lose their interest by expressing how you honestly feel. But even if you feel nervous talking about boundaries, they’re still worth setting. Practice what you want to say beforehand, or even write it in a text if you’re struggling to get the words out.
Welcome their boundaries too.
In a new relationship, it’s important to be open about the other person’s boundaries while setting your own. Listen to the boundaries they set, and respect them even if you don’t always understand them. If your partner hasn’t spoken up about their boundaries yet, invite them to! This way, you can get closer as a couple and show your mutual respect for each other.
Notice boundary violations.
If your boundaries aren’t respected in your new relationship, consider this a major fire engine-colored red flag. If they question or push back when you try to set boundaries, you may want to reconsider if this relationship is really worth it.
Expect some mistakes.
On the other hand, it’s likely that your partner might slip up in the beginning and forget a boundary you set. After all, you’re still trying to get used to each other’s preferences and needs. If they show a genuine interest in your boundaries, be forgiving if they forget or make a mistake in the beginning. But if they “mistakenly” forget or cross your boundaries repeatedly, that’s another story.
Set clear consequences.
Setting boundaries doesn’t just stop at communicating where you draw the line. It also requires setting consequences for if that line is crossed. When setting boundaries with your new partner, let them know what will happen if they violate a boundary. For example, if you set a boundary around cheating, and that you don’t tolerate cheating in relationships, a reasonable consequence is that the relationship will end if the boundary is crossed. When deciding consequences, make sure that you uphold your promise and follow through with them.
Don’t forget to set boundaries with yourself.
New relationships can stir up some old bad habits. That’s because starting a new relationship can feel super vulnerable and scary. Look to past relationships to learn from the mistakes you might’ve made, and challenge yourself to do better this time. Promise yourself that you’ll speak up when your partner hurts your feelings. Or set a boundary limiting how much time you’re able to sacrifice for dates with your new partner. Check in with yourself, set personal boundaries for how you want to show up in your new relationship, and hold yourself accountable to honor those boundaries.
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